Canton resident Joyce Murphy, founding president of St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, will be honored this October at the center’s Diamonds of Dorchester event with the John Corcoran Award for Excellence.
Murphy helped establish St. Mary’s in 1993 on the campus of the former St. Margaret’s Hospital, when the hospital’s operations were moved to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton.
“They were very concerned about the impact on women and children in the Dorchester community,” Murphy said of the closure, which she said was delayed because of that concern. “It was very clear to me that redeveloping and preserving this site was just as important as continuing to provide care.”
She was brought on as vice president of the hospital soon after the decision was made to close its doors, and had a year and a half to figure out what to do with the facility. With the help of John Corcoran, a philanthropist and the center’s founding trustee, she used her experience working in the criminal justice system and women’s prisons to create a plan for the new St. Mary’s.
While working as the superintendent of a state women’s prison, Murphy said she saw the negative effects on the children whose mothers were incarcerated, as well as the inevitable cycle of dependency of the women on abusive relationships and poverty.
“If I could intervene in the lives of women earlier, what an impact I could have on the children and families in the area,” she said.
Since its opening, St. Mary’s has run support programs for women and children living in poverty, including shelter, education, childcare, job training and help finding jobs an permanent housing.
Murphy said she was humbled to be honored with the award that is named for the man who helped her establish the organization.
“He was so committed to the Dorchester community, and insisted that we need to do something, and not just close the hospital,” Murphy said of Corcoran, who died in 2003. “It’s a huge honor.”
The award will be bestowed at the center’s 15th annual Diamonds of Dorchester gala on October 17.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the gala, visit stmaryscenterma.org.